Hominin lower limb bones from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa (1998–2003 excavations)

  • Travis Rayne Pickering 1.Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA; 2.Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5369-7807
  • Jason L. Heaton Department of Biology, Birmingham- Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama, USA https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8039-4748
  • Ron J. Clarke Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Dominic Stratford School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9790-8848
  • A.J. Heile Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Keywords: Australopithecus, femur, tibia, fibula

Abstract

We describe late Pliocene and early Pleistocene hominin fossils from Sterkfontein Caves (South Africa), including two femoral specimens, as well as a partial tibia and a partial fibula. The fossils are likely assignable to Australopithecus africanus and/or Australopithecus prometheus and the morphology of each corroborates previous interpretations of Sterkfontein hominins as at least facultative bipeds.

Significance:

  • A recent series of papers by our research team describes the morphology of a hominin skeleton from Sterkfontein Caves (South Africa), nicknamed ‘Little Foot’. Based on its unique skull morphology, R.J. Clarke, the skeleton’s discoverer, places it in the species Australopithecus prometheus, as distinct from the better-known and co-occurring Australopithecus africanus. Here we describe additional hominin thigh and leg fossils from Sterkfontein that, when considered in a comparative context, support the hypothesis that there was significant (probably interspecific) variation in South African hominin postcranial morphology during the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene.
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Published
2021-01-29
Section
Research Article

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